ESPN Lays Out Massive Expectation for New Vikings QB

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates after the 34-13 win over Washington to win the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

When the Minnesota Vikings allowed Kirk Cousins to walk in free agency, it indicated a new era of Vikings football would soon begin.

The Vikings then proceeded to select J.J. McCarthy with the 10th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, further solidifying that Minnesota’s offense would look very different sooner rather than later. Now, many are wondering exactly what the expectations for Minnesota’s new QB should look like.

Well, ESPN’s Jordan Reid painted a picture of what McCarthy might be capable of at the NFL level in his latest article.

ESPN Lays Out Massive Expectation for New Vikings QB

Vikings QB
Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reid explained the fits for each of this year’s QB draft picks, and he also listed areas in which the first-rounders could excel at in the NFL. For McCarthy, the analyst believes that the QB could lead the NFL in QBR during play-action.

“Efficiency off these concepts is a strength of McCarthy’s game, and Minnesota runs a lot of it. He’s comfortable turning his back to the defense and resetting his eyes prior to making throws. His 90.4 QBR and 76.3% completion rate on play-action ranked sixth and seventh in the country, respectively, last season,” Reid explained.

McCarthy often received criticism during his time at Michigan because of how run-focused the Wolverines offense was during his tenure. The QB averaged just over 22 pass attempts per game during the 2023 campaign, far lower than, say, Drake Maye, who averaged 35.4 attempts per game during his final season at North Carolina.

Sep 16, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws against the Bowling Green Falcons in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

However, McCarthy found success more often than not when throwing the ball for the Wolverines. The QB helped lead Michigan to a 28-1 record over his two years as a starter, and he completed 72.3% of his passes during the 2023 season.

While it inevitably will be an adjustment for McCarthy as the 21-year-old goes from the collegiate to the NFL level, he is entering a great situation that should lead to that transition being a bit easier.

“Minnesota didn’t re-sign Kirk Cousins and chose to turn the page to McCarthy, who now enters a great situation for a young passer. Yes, the Vikings’ scheme can be challenging and asks a lot of the quarterback, but the surrounding talent should ease McCarthy’s transition. After all, Justin Jefferson is running routes for this Minnesota offense. And the Vikings led the NFL in under-center passing plays (207 dropbacks) and play-action snaps (217) last season, two categories where McCarthy had plenty of experience in Michigan’s scheme,” Reid stated.

Dec 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws during the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2022 season, Cousins was graded as PFF’s fourth-best quarterback when operating in play-action (min. 200 total drop backs), and in 2023, 31.1% of Cousins’ drop backs were in play-action. With that in mind, as well as McCarthy’s success at Michigan in play-action, it would make sense that Kevin O’Connell can turn the new Vikings QB into an assassin on those types of plays.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Focus.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.